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Governor Fallin visits with students, teachers

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

ELGIN, OK (KSWO) - Excitement in Elgin Friday as Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin spent the morning touring the school's campus and visiting with students and teachers.

The Governor's visit was part of Elgin's Winter Wish Program, which we told you about the program back in December.  Each student was asked to make a wish--from meeting professional athletes to police officer visits--and the school has been working to fulfill those wishes.

8th grader Shawn Hilliary wished for the chance to show Governor Fallin around the school. Friday, that wish came true as Governor Fallin had a question and answer session with students before receiving a tour of the campus.

She also visited with teachers, students and local congressman at schools in Lawton. During her visit in Elgin, Governor Fallin spoke on the importance of education and funding it as the state faces a budget shortfall. After stressing the need for a good education, Governor Fallin asked the students what they want to do after graduating and told them to follow their dreams. However, she said things need to change going forward and said in these last six weeks of the legislative session, we have to find some way to bring more money to education.

With the significant budget problems facing our state right now, Fallin said events like the ones Friday are necessary.

“It's very important, I think, for a governor to get out and visit with our teachers, with our students, with our citizens that care about public education and of course to me, education is the most important thing we need to do for our state and for our futures is make sure our children get the best education possible,” Fallin said.

Governor Fallin said to give our kids that education, we have to have all kids in school five days each week instead of four.

"A couple months back I was talking to some business people from out of state telling them what a great quality of life we have, what a great place we are to do business,” Fallin said. “One of the gentlemen said I love your state, it's a great place, but you only educate your kids four days a week because of budget problems and I said no, no, sir, not in all schools. We're working on our funding issues, working on our revenue and working to structurally rebalance our budget so we can have the 5-day school weeks."

The Governor did not address a topic on everyone’s mind, pay raises for teachers, and where the money for that would come from, but did talk about the need to find some sort of funding for education in general, as well as public safety, transportation, and healthcare. But, again, right now, where that funding will come from is up in the air.

She said we have to change the way the state approaches sales tax, saying she's asked lawmakers to look into tax exemptions and incentives given to companies.

"We need to look at more efficiency, eliminating waste in spending, but also look at revenue enhancements, such as look at the cigarette tax so we can reduce smoking, which is a big health issue in our state and have some money that would go to healthcare or even look at adjusting some of our sales tax structures,” Fallin said.

Fallin said she hopes that before the legislative session is over, the legislators will come together and realize the magnitude of the state's revenue problem and find some long-term fixes. 

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